Back in late April, when the White Sox called him up from Class AAA Charlotte to replace injured Avisail Garcia, Daniel Palka couldn’t possibly have known he’d stick around for the season, let alone that he’d lead all major-league rookies with 27 home runs heading into the final week.
Palka hit a two-run shot Friday off Cubs reliever Dillon Maples in the sixth inning of the Sox’ 10-4 victory at Guaranteed Rate Field.
“I didn’t know what to expect [this season],” Palka said. “I just wanted to make sure I made the most of every opportunity I got and made sure I produced enough that the question was there — that maybe I’d have to stay.
“In my mind, I’m not surprised because I’m just confident in what I’m doing.”
Palka’s homer was his fourth as a pinch hitter, a Sox single-season record. It also tied him for third for homers in one season by a Sox rookie. The last one to hit 27 was Zeke Bonura in 1934 (but you knew that already).
Palka’s take on rubbing elbows with such greatness?
“I saw that, and I thought it was weird that a guy in the ’30s had the name Zeke,” he said.
Lopez keeps dealing
Also reaching a milestone was right-handed starter Reynaldo Lopez (7-9), who became the first Sox pitcher to throw five straight games of six-plus innings with one or zero runs allowed since — wait for it — Eric King in 1989.
“To know you’re doing something like that is special,” Lopez said through an interpreter.
A bigger deal to Lopez: He lowered his ERA to 3.94.
“That’s very important for me,” he said. “I set my goal to finish the season with an ERA below 4.00.”
Sox second baseman Yoan Moncada singled three times and is 9-for-18 (.500) over his last four games and 25-for-75 (.333) over his last 19.
Color his mentor, veteran first baseman Jose Abreu, unimpressed.
“As you know, I’m always looking for more ways for him to improve,” Abreu said. “He has plenty of room to improve and get better, to develop.”
Abreu’s offseason advice to his young friend: “Work. Work. Work with a purpose, and be around good people who can help him.”
Cubs are on notice
Saturday’s Sox starter, Lucas Giolito — who, despite walking seven batters, beat the Cubs at Wrigley Field in May — is psyched to face Cubs ace Jon Lester.
“I always enjoy going up against an elite- or premier-type starting pitcher,” he said. “For me, as a young player, it’s an even better experience than going up against another guy of my status in baseball. It gives you an extra edge of competitiveness. I’m going up against the best, so I’d better bring my best.”